GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. -- A 42-year-old man died on Sunday when his head exploded while trying to decipher a story by Denver Post sports columnist Woody Paige.
Joseph Patrick, a computer programmer and father of two, was waiting for his grande skim vanilla latte in a crowded Starbucks here when he casually picked up a copy of Sunday's Post, his wife said.
Patrick had vowed years ago not to read Paige's work, according to his wife. But recent rumors that Paige had written sentences that almost made sense may have caused her husband to let his guard down, she said.
"I was bringing him his drink. We were about to leave," Mrs. Patrick, 38, said through stifled tears, sitting in a corner of the Starbucks while police interviewed witnesses. "I saw Woody's weaselly little mug on C1, but I figured he was just reading Mark Kiszla or something. I reached for the paper, just to be safe. That's when it happened."
Witnesses said Mr. Patrick started mumbling incoherently and shaking his head when suddenly, and violently, his head exploded into thousands of little pieces, covering the Starbucks and sending customers -- as many as 25, by some accounts -- diving under tables. Baristas ducked behind the counter.
"I've never seen anything like it," said Ricky Alan, 19, an assistant manager. "A guy passed out once reading Penny Parker, but it was hot out that day, and Penny had seen Mark Ruffalo at Elway's or something. It was understandable. But this ... "
Greenwood Village police arrived quickly and immediately cleared the Starbucks. Meanwhile, crime-scene investigators cleaned the mess and marked evidence, highlighting key passages in Paige's column that may have caused the accident. "The stock show must be back in town," and "Where was Batman the Nuggets were Jokers" were among the lines highlighted by investigators.
But while Mrs. Patrick begged for justice -- "Woody, his editors, someone has to pay for this," she said -- detective Nathan Ross said there was little chance of charges being filed by the prosecutor's office.
"But," the detective said, "I would urge Woody to drive the speed limit and stop at all stop signs, because we'll be watching. We're tired of cleaning up after his incoherence."
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